Research Programs

Blood - BLO

Hematology is a comprehensive specialty dedicated to the epidemiology, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment and research in all types of blood-related disorders. Hematology research activities include the investigation of blood production, blood function and blood-related diseases. The mission of the BLOOD program is to develop a competitive research program in basic, translational and clinical research in all areas of hematology. BLOOD program research program comprises projects aiming at investigating epidemiological and pathophysiological processes as well as diagnosis, prognosis and therapeutic approaches of all blood-related disorders, and pathophysiological processes that contribute to inflammation, thrombosis and hemato-oncological diseases.


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Bone & Joint - BNJ

The skeletal system is subject to traumatic conditions (fractures, large bone defects) and pathology due to degeneration (osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc degeneration). The demand for improved and efficient treatments are increasing as the population of the elderly grows, and these want to stay phasically active. Surgical procedures for the repair of large bone defects or degenerated spinal discs, however, still await for tremendous improvements. The regeneration of skeletal tissues is the main focus of the Bone & Joint Research Program. To this aim, strategies based on cells, materials, and growth factors are currently employed in ex vivo (2D/3D cell cultures, bioreactors) and in vivo models. Pioneering orthopaedic surgery, which has been a long tradition in Bern, requires interactions between surgeons and scientists. The Bone & Joint Research Cluster will continue and extend this tradition and will provide the clinicians with tools to improve the treatment of of patients.

Scientific Overview

The Bone & Joint Program two unifies two research groups focusing on the musculoskeletal apparatus: i) Orthopedic Research (OR) and ii) the Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery group. The aim of the Bone & Joint program is to support exchange of ideas, to foster collaborations among the participating groups, and to develop and make use of the environment provided by the Clinics of the University Hospital and the SITEM. The OR group focuses on translational research of the soft tissues, such as the intervertebral discs of the spine and also on bone turnover. The experience in stem cell research and mechanobiology, in 3D and organ and organoid-like cultures will be vastly profitable for clinical scientists and biologists.



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Cancer Therapy Resistance - CTR

We propose to study therapy resistance using matched patient samples before and after treatment, state-of-the-art in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro models, and functional screens to identify new vulnerabilities of the resistant tumors. Since the mammalian genome is finite, the number of drug resistance mechanisms is not endless. By combining the power of NGS with functional genomics screens and DDR measurements, we hope to elucidate the basic mechanisms of therapy resistance. It is the additional validation of patient-derived samples, organoids, 3D cultures and more realistic animal models that provides a unique opportunity. The direct validation in cancer patients of hits obtained in cell lines is not possible, since obviously a gene of interest cannot be mutated in the patients. In contrast, this can be tested in the model systems we propose. The added value created by the CTR cluster comes from the interdisciplinary team that has extensive experience in basic, translational and clinical research. The CTR will establish a precision oncology network with leading research groups in the fields of DDR and replication stress. CTR is different from other established precision medicine settings that try to assemble mutational cancer landscapes, since our major goal is to identify new therapeutic vulnerabilities of therapy resistant cancers. For this purpose, we aim at identifying novel genomic alterations associated with treatment resistance and to identify new therapeutic targets to restore treatment sensitivity. The CTR PIs have established collaborations with other leading scientists abroad (e.g. SU2C-PCF Prostate, SPORE, SNF Sinergia, KWF, ITN, FWF, The Netherlands Cancer Institute). Hence, CTR is active internationally, and we are convinced that it will provide more visibility for the University of Bern and Switzerland in the field of precision oncology.


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Cardiovascular Diseases - CVD

“The cardiovascular system is essential for embryonic development and during the entire lifespan, ensuring blood supply throughout the body. In healthy adults, blood vessels remain in a quiescent state with a non-proliferating, anti-thrombotic, anti-inflammatory and non-angiogenic endothelial (EC) and smooth muscle cell (SMC) phenotype. Cardiomyocytes (CM) possess a high mitochondrial density to prevent fatigue and ensure electrical and contractile function. However, pathophysiological conditions such as malformations, vascular remodeling after endothelial dysfunction, and inflammation or tissue damage with resultant cardiac remodeling are associated with cardiovascular disease states affecting these cells. Focusing on human cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), the DBMR CVD research cluster will cover all aspects of vascular and cardiac injury responses: we will analyze physiological, molecular and epigenetic mechanism underlying immediate injury responses after tissue damage (vascular inflammation, ischemia/reperfusion injury, cancer treatment). We aim to dissect fibrotic repair mechanisms and investigate long-term consequences of injury (e.g. arrhythmias and heart failure) as well as mechanisms of cardiovascular regeneration.”


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Lung Precision Medicine - LPM

Pulmonary diseases are becoming more common and serious worldwide, but our options for treating them are limited. Traditional methods for studying these diseases in the lab or in animals have their limitations and there is a lack of predictive and pre-validated in vitro lung models that can be considered as a valid alternative for animal testing. Using precise and advanced engineering techniques, we can create personalized models of lung diseases. This will help us screen drugs more effectively and ultimately improve how we care for patients. The Lung Precision Medicine (LPM) research program is an interdisciplinary cluster that brings together clinicians, biologists, physicists and engineers of the University of Bern and the University Hospital of Bern. We aim at tackling unmet clinical needs focusing on acute and chronic lung diseases, lung regeneration and connective tissue diseases. Our work involves improving existing methods and creating new ways to study the respiratory system in the lab. We use techniques like lung-on-chip models, 3D cell cultures, organoids, and precision cut lung slices. These methods use cells from patients, including induced pluripotent stem cells to better mimic the real conditions of the lungs and create personalized disease models. We are also trying to understand the causes of different lung diseases, such as asthma, lung fibrosis, COPD/emphysema, primary ciliary dyskinesia, cystic fibrosis, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, lung cancer, autoimmune lung diseases, and allergies. We study the organ system and key cells involved in these diseases, as well as external factors like viruses and air pollutants. We follow a multi-OMICS approach using human biosamples, complemented with imaging technologies and disease modelling in animals and in vitro disease models. Our goal is to develop new personalized treatments that could potentially also be applied directly to the lungs. As people age, they become more susceptible to chronic lung diseases like fibrosis and emphysema. Changes in metabolism, mitochondrial function, DNA damage, inflammation and other factors can affect how cells and tissues work. We're investigating these changes and their role in different patients to develop personalized approaches of treatment. Our lab based findings are then tested using patient samples and in clinical studies to ensure their relevance and effectiveness. Our aim is to help keep the lung healthy (or heal it) and make breathing easy.

Pediatric Pneumology

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Oncology-Thoracic Malignancies - OTM


Thoracic cancers include lung cancers, lung carcinoid tumors, thymic malignancies, tracheal tumors and mesotheliomas. Thoracic cancers are the most common cause of cancer-related death. The 5-year survival rate is ~30% for lung cancer and 5-10% for mesothelioma. This is mainly due to the difficulty of early detection and lack of effective treatment methods, thus more effective treatment options are desperately needed. It was postulated that tumor initiation, chemotherapy resistance and metastasis are mediated by cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells have been described in both lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The general aim of the laboratory of thoracic surgery is to comprehensively extend our knowledge on cancer stem cells and the associated molecular mechanism underlying tumorigenesis, therapy resistance and metastasis of thoracic malignancies, thereby significantly contributing to our long-term goal to develop better treatment strategies for cancer patients.


The research team is headed by Prof. Ralph Alexander Schmid. Prof. Ren-Wang Peng and PD Dr. Thomas Michael Marti function as principal investigators of two synergistically interacting research groups, each with an individual research focus.


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Regenerative Neuroscience - RNS

The aim of the regenerative neuroscience program is to understand the pathophysiology of brain injury and neurodegenerative diseases and to modulate repair of the damaged nervous system to restore function using stem/progenitor cells and optogenetic technologies. Establishing an interdisciplinary collaboration between several research groups in the area of neuroscience was inspired by the emerging field of stem cell research, which offers promising new therapeutic options for a variety of disorders of the brain and the sensory organs. These approaches include cell-free treatments, therapy with stem cell-derived exosomes, and delivery of stem cell-derived, pre-differentiated cells including human patient-derived neurons to the damaged site as well as the promotion of local cellular repair using endogenous stem cell mechanisms. In the course of already existing scientific interactions, the foundation for the program was laid in 2009 by research groups from University Hospital Clinics of Neurosurgery; Obstetrics and Prenatal Medicine; Ophthalmology and Otorhinolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery and the University Institute for Infectious Diseases. Partners from the Institute of Physiology and the Department of Neurology later joined in. While the group labs are functioning independently, we are also operating from a common stem cell research laboratory at Murtenstrasse 40, advancing multidisciplinary approaches as well as hosting monthly common seminars for scientific and technological exchange. Therewith, the regenerative neuroscience program provides the conceptual and practical framework for developing synergism. An important aspect of the regenerative neuroscience program in addition to joint projects and publications consists in the opportunity to offer teaching and continuous education to young researchers and promoting diversity. Since the beginning, the mission of our program is based on the pillars of scientific exchange, education of young researchers, technological advances and networking.

Systems biomedicine of cellular development and signaling in health and disease - SBM

The program is built out of the current collaborations in basic and translational science activities of the University Clinic for Visceral Surgery and Medicine (UVCM). These have already been synergistic based on the output of combined publications. Synergies based on the scientific basis of complementary approaches to the systems biology of cellular differentiation and signalling, in which microbial host interactions and their physiological and pathological consequences play a major role. It is increasingly recognised that these host mechanisms cannot be meaningfully studied uncoupled from understanding the metabolic load that the microbiota generates within the host – this is true for many different organ systems in benign and malignant conditions, but the proximity of microbial biomass and its downstream xenobiotic exposure means that the intestinal tract, liver, pancreas and endocrine system are dominant targets. A second practical reason that the cluster makes sense is that one mission of UVCM is to train junior medical staff in scientific research methodology: the reality here is that availability of research protected time and coherence of research training needs to be coordinated with the added value of involving closely related clinical disciplines in translational studies. Finally, as shown below, much of the technical resource infrastructure and computational pipelines are shared across the different groupings and therefore true ‘added-value’ can be obtained.

Translational Cancer Research - TCR

This research cluster is designed to take maximum advantage of the synergies between relevant disciplines involved in cancer research at the Department for BioMedical Research and the Bern University Hospital, Inselspital. The cluster brings together the research labs of Medical Oncology (Ochsenbein, Riether, Pabst, Seipel, Novak, Häfliger, Berger), Radiation Oncology (Aebersold, Medová, Zimmer) and Pediatric Hematology / Oncology (Rössler/Bernasconi). It combines cutting-edge RNA and CRISPR research (Häfliger), with state-of-the art cancer organoid culture, cancer modelling and immunotherapy (Ochsenbein, Riether, Pabst, Novak, Zimmer, Medová, Rössler, Bernasconi), targeted Nanomedicine (Rössler, Bernasconi) as well as studying of treatment responses (Pabst, Zimmer, Medová, Aebersold, Seipel, Berger, Novak). In this respect, particular emphasis resides in studies of resistance mechanisms associated with treatment modalities consisting of DNA-damaging agents and inhibitors targeting receptor tyrosine kinases and the DNA damage response machinery.

Translational Hormone Research - THR

Hormones are critical regulators of physiology and behaviour. They orchestrate a plethora of biological functions such as regulation of metabolism, cardiovascular functions, development, growth, and differentiation. The primary goal our research program is therefore to unravel and better understand the intricate network of hormonal regulation, metabolic responses and transmembrane transport linked to diseases such as steroid disorders, nephropathies, diabetes, obesity and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This will be enabled by the close collaboration of three departments: Department of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes and Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology, Nutritional Medicine & Metabolism. Based on the dual orientation of the Program (basic and clinical research), our mission will be to foster the translation from basic science to clinical application and vice versa.

Current research questions include:

  • Regulatory mechanisms controlling human adrenal and gonadal function, androgen production and novel androgen producing pathways
  • Role of steroid hormones in rare disorders of sex development, and common diseases such as premature adrenarche, PCOS, regulation of blood pressure and electrolyte balance
  • Effect of drugs and toxins on steroidogenesis
  • Role of peptide hormones in substrate metabolism and energy homeostasis
  • Regulation of hormone activity through transmembrane proteins such as ion channels and solute carrier proteins


  • Bally Lab - Diabetes, Endocrinology, Nutritional Medicine & Metabolism; coordinator Translational and Clinical
  • du Toit Lab - Nephrology and Hypertension
  • Escher Lab - Nephrology and Hypertension
  • Flück Lab Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes; coordinator Basics to Clinics
  • Hediger Lab Nephrology and Hypertension
  • Pandey Lab - Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes
  • Vogt Lab Nephrology and Hypertension

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Translational Immunology - TIM

The interest of initiating a cluster for translational immunology is inspired by the fact that over the past decade the immune system that serves as the body’s line of defense has been shown to be implicated in a number of inflammatory and infectious diseases that affect millions of people around the world. People become ill because their immune system has reacted too strongly or not strongly enough to bacteria, viruses, parasites or injury. Thus, people would profit if the immune system would be better understood and if therapies could be developed that imply the immune system to combat diseases. The creation of a cluster of translational immunology will profit to our groups whose common main aim is to develop new immunotherapeutic agents and maximize the use of currently available immunotherapeutics. It will reinforce the ongoing collaboration which presently relies on the sharing of devices (FACS, BIAcore, Octet) and other methods and on the exchange of information. This happens in the framework of regular meetings and events to discuss latest data and advancements in the immunology field. This platform will also give opportunities for our groups to optimize their efforts by acting synergistically to get access to new devices and to new funding opportunities. Since our groups are also working with human patient samples we also have close ties to our clinical colleagues of the Department of Rheumatology, the Department of Allergology as well as the Department of Dermatology. These interactions are helpful and will significantly accelerate the process of transitioning basic research results to applications used in a clinical setting.



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The Zentrum für Experimentelle Neurologie (ZEN) aims at promoting interdisciplinary synergies between experimental and clinical neurosciences to advance the translation of scientific discoveries into biomedical applications and therapeutic interventions. The ZEN offers a unique research environment where basic, clinical and neuro-engineering laboratories co-exist in a single geographical site (Insel) next to the largest clinical neuro-center in Switzerland that foster novel translational research approaches (‘back-translation’) and stimulate interdisciplinary scientific collaboration. ZEN researchers aims at advancing scientific knowledge about the brain and disease mechanisms, design of next-generation neuro-devices and truly translational biomedical applications through the development and application of diverse state-of-the-art techniques (experimental) and “experimental-clinical dataset” analyses (computational). Altogether, this provides a unique niche in Switzerland to train young scientists, engineers, clinicians and clinician-scientists and promote scientific, clinical and teaching activities (,


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Independent Research Labs


Clinical Radiopharmacy

Endometriosis & Gynecological Oncology

Experimental Nephrology

Experimental Radiology

Functional Urology

Human Genetics

Molecular Dermatology & Stem Cell Research


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